Instead of taxing food, Utah’s Senate Minority Leader proposes a tax on soda and candy

SALT LAKE CITY -- In a counter-proposal to her Republican colleagues considering hiking the sales tax on food, Senate Minority Leader Karen Mayne is pushing for raising the tax on soda and candy.

"Everybody needs food to live. You don’t need a soda. You choose to have a soda," Sen. Mayne, D-West Valley City, told FOX 13 on Monday.

It could generate some heat in a state where culturally, coffee isn't as popular as soda.

"We don’t punish people for eating. If you want a soda, by darn, you get it. Or you want that candy bar. I’m not going to give up my Diet Coke. I’m not going to give up my Sugar Daddy’s or my Milk Duds," she said.

The Senate Minority Leader released her ideas ahead of a public meeting scheduled for Tuesday afternoon on a number of tax proposals. Republican lawmakers have submitted a plan to raise the tax on food and tax some services ranging from yoga classes to ride sharing services and streaming media.

Lawmakers have spent the past year arguing for changes to the tax system, arguing that revenues that pay for essential government services from roads to schools to healthcare are declining. They propose some shuffling around of the things Utahns are taxed on to keep those revenues going steady. But it's faced significant public pushback, especially a tax on services.

House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville, has said he would consider a special session to pass a tax overhaul, if it included an income tax cut for Utahns.

Democrats on Utah's Capitol Hill have suggested they will fight the plan to raise the sales tax on food. Sen. Mayne also proposes eliminating the "tampon tax," a sales tax on hygiene products. She also wants a 4.95% income tax on people who make over $250,000 a year, rising the way to a 5.5% rate for those whose income exceeds $1 million.

She is not the only lawmaker with a proposal to counter one proposed by a tax reform task force. Sen. Lincoln Fillmore, R-South Jordan, introduced a proposal that he said was the idea of the Utah Taxpayers Association, a tax watchdog group.

"I think this proposal is a substantially larger tax cut than other proposals that are out there," he said Monday.

The proposal backed by Sen. Fillmore includes expanding the dependent exemption that Utah families felt when the federal government tweaked as part of its tax reform bill in 2017.

"My goal is to try to get us back to where we were before the federal government changed our tax policy," he told FOX 13.

The proposal also calls for removing the earmark for education on the income tax, an idea that requires a constitutional amendment and voter approval. But Sen. Fillmore also approved of an idea of a sales tax on streamed media.

"You used to buy CDs and now you don’t. You subscribe to Spotify, but they’re really the same thing, right?" he said. "You’re purchasing a license to listen to music and those really ought to be uniformly subject to the tax code."

Sen. Fillmore urged people to contact their lawmakers to share their views on changes to the tax system. He was planning town halls in the next couple of weeks to hear from his constituents.

The tax reform task force public hearing is set for 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 22 in the House Building on Capitol Hill.

Read the Senate Minority Leader's proposal here:

Read Sen. Fillmore's proposal here:

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